. . .
Flowers was a weird beast. Not quite a greatest hits album — even though it had “Ruby Tuesday,” “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and “Mother’s Little Helper” — but not quiet an odds and sods album, because it contained those songs, it’s one of the few Rolling Stones 1960s albums I’ve never purchased, even though track by track, it’s pretty fucking awesome.
And one of those awesome tracks was the all acoustic “Sittin’ on a Fence,” which combines an absolutely gorgeous melody with some of their most “fuck everything” lyrics.
Since I was young I’ve been very hard to please
And I don’t know wrong from right
But there is one thing i could never understand
Some of the sick things that a girl does to a man, so
While “Sittin’ on a Fence” has some bass and tambourine — and later on, a harpischord — it’s really the two acoustic guitars that hold it together. A strummed one and a picked one — Brian and Keith, though some sources have it as Keith and Brian, but the preciseness of the playing on the picked one makes me think it’s probably Keith — split in each speaker.
I’m just sittin’ on a fence
You can say I got no sense
Trying to make up my mind
Really is too horrifying
So I’m sittin’ on a fence
Keith also provides the gentle harmonies on that chorus, while his guitar circles all around the song and Mick’s vocals, never even stopping for a second, even during the awesomely brutal second verse.
All of my friends at school grew up and settled down
And they mortgaged up their lives
One thing’s not said too much, but I think it’s true
They just get married cause there’s nothing else to do, so
Heh. I’ve always wondered if Mick & Keith’s married friends — Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — thought that this was some kind of dig, if they just thought Mick & Keith were being general assholes. Or both! Probably both. In any event, there’s still one more dark verse, where the guitars stop and a harpsichord — played either by Jack Nitzsche or Brian — meanders in.
The day can come when you get old and sick and tired of life
You just never realize
Maybe the choice you made wasn’t really right
But you go out and you don’t come back at night, so
Even though it wasn’t released until 1967, “Sittin’ on a Fence” was actually recorded for Aftermath, where I guess they figured it didn’t fit, and maybe it didn’t, though I would have loved Aftermath that much more had they put this one on it.
“Sittin’ on a Fence”
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